Remember when your parents and/or teacher insisted that the third grade is very important because if you didn't pay attention in third grade, you wouldn't do well in fourth grade and so on and so forth until it got to: 'And if you don't do well in high school, you won't get into a good college. And if you don't get into a good college, you won't do well in life'?
The same concept is in play during the NFL offseason. OTAs lead to minicamp, which sets the stage for training camp, which determines where everyone plays during the preseason, which in turn sets the table for the regular-season opener. The 49ers this week will hold their mandatory minicamp, which -- going back to our analogy -- is roughly the equivalent of the final year of elementary school.
Keeping in mind that a number of players have been injured, here is the team's current depth chart. With a few exceptions, the rookies -- noted with an asterisk -- have played on the third-team units. The ones who make a move for a roster spot typically start doing so in the second week of training camp.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens, Jack Heneghan*
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Notes: The first two spots are locked. Mullens has taken, if not all, the lion's share of the third-team snaps so far because he knows the offense and Heneghan does not. Heneghan, the undrafted rookie from Dartmouth, will have to be very impressive in the summer to jump ahead of Mullens and make the practice squad.
Running back: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols, Jeff Wilson*
Notes: Like quarterback, the real competition is for the third spot. Williams has had a few nice runs, but Mostert is better in the passing game and, notably, on special teams. Wilson looks good, but there simply is not as much room for undrafted rookies this year as there was in 2017. McNichols has been injured to this point, though he looks noticeably lighter than last year. Training camp and especially the preseason ought to give this position more clarity.
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, Malcolm Johnson
Notes: None. Juszczyk is the clear-cut starter, who like a lot of offensive players, seemed to take off right about the time Garoppolo took over at quarterback last year.
Wide receiver: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson, Victor Bolden, Aaron Burbridge, Dante Pettis*, Richie James*, Steven Dunbar*
Notes: Trent Taylor's quickness meshed very well with Garoppolo's fast release last season, and that duo promises to be effective again this year. Taylor, however, has been out with a back issue, which has allowed Robinson, Bolden, Pettis and James to work out of the slot. Pettis has played both outside and inside this spring. His true test comes next month when the pads go on and strong, handsy opponents like Richard Sherman try to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Among 49ers wide receivers, the story of the spring has been Bourne, who is going through his first NFL offseason (his university still was in session during last year's OTAs) and who has looked good when working with the first group. Like Bourne, Dunbar has good size and hands and is a strong candidate for the practice squad. Burbridge is a lot like Garcon and can play special teams. He's a dark horse for the 53-man squad. Along with Taylor, Max McAffrey also has been dealing with an injury and was on a side field for the bulk of OTAs.
Tight end: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini, Cole Wick, Ross Dwelley*
Notes: In speaking with tight ends coach Jon Embree last week, he made it seem as if Kittle, Celek and Hikutini were the clear favorites. Kittle obviously has the most potential of the group, but Celek has been Mr. Consistent since last year and is an obvious favorite of Garoppolo's, especially in the red zone, because of it. Wick spent time on the practice squad last year and is a strong blocker. Dwelley is more versatile but lacks speed. The two may be competing for a practice-squad spot.
Offensive tackle: Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey*, Garry Gilliam, Andrew Lauderdale, Jamar McGloster*
Note: Gilliam ostensibly is the third tackle on the team. In the practices that have been open to reporters so far, he's played far more right tackle than left tackle. Lauderdale has lined up at left tackle with the second-team offense though the arrangement likely will change when Darrell Williams Jr. (currently injured) is back during training camp. McGlinchey is the only rookie on either side of the ball exclusively working with the first-team group.
Offensive guards: Laken Tomlinson, Joshua Garnett, Mike Person, Erik Magnuson, Pace Murphy, Najee Toran*
Note: Tomlinson appears to have the starting left guard spot locked down. The big competition of training camp will be at right guard when Jonathan Cooper (knee) practices with the 49ers for the first time since they acquired him in free agency. Garnett has taken most of the first-team snaps at right guard so far, but Person has worked at that spot, too. Person also has experience at center; Garnett does not. That means that if Garnett doesn't win a starting spot outright, he might not dress on game days … or he might not even make the team.
Centers: Weston Richburg, Mike Person, Erik Magnuson, Coleman Shelton*, Alan Knott*
Notes: Person and Magnuson are similar in that they are college tackles who play both center and guard in the NFL. At least one is bound to make the 53-man roster in large part because of that versatility.
Wednesday: the defensive depth chart.